Jonah Goldberg

Now, personally, I don't care very much if schools drop their legacy policies. But let's be honest about what's really going on here and what isn't.

First of all, the ones who benefit most from legacy policies are the schools and the other non-rich students. The parents of legacies tend to be the biggest financial supporters of schools. If, all of the sudden, these boosters can't get their kids accepted, a major revenue stream will dry up or at least shrink. Millionaires, after all, are less likely to build libraries for schools that reject their kids. That means tuition will go up, disproportionately hurting poor and minority kids.

Meanwhile, the children of rich, well-connected people are going to be OK because, well, they're rich. But poor parents are going to have more trouble getting their kids the best education possible.

Fine. If we think the ideal of merit should reign supreme, by all means let's ban legacy preferences.

But this isn't about merit. After all, Ted Kennedy isn't proposing that we track the financial data of kids who benefit from racial preferences (an idea proposed by Peter Kirsanow, a Republican appointee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, and championed by Stuart Taylor of the National Journal). If we did that, we'd discover that minorities benefit far more than legacies do and that racial preferences often go to upper-middle-class, not underprivileged, blacks.

Moreover, the logic supporting the anti-legacy case simply makes no sense. Most people mock the rich kids who get daddy's help. If legacy preferences are bad, how does that make preferences for blacks good? You can't defend one bad policy by pointing out that there are other similarly bad policies.

Besides, and this is what we should remember during Black History Month, the two policies really aren't that similar. Race is different. America fought a Civil War largely over race. The civil rights movement, which we hear so much about this month and every other month, was morally compelling precisely because it said we should judge people by the content of their character not the color of their skin.

If schools want to have preferences for short people, gays or nerds that may be good or bad policy, but it's not "institutional racism." Assigning points based upon skin color is. At least in my book.

Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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